You’ve heard of Paris, but what about this amazing fantasyland of a place? Take a trip to Colmar, France, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
As part of our month-long commemoration of France and its culinary contributions, we’re stepping off the beaten path. Instead of the usual tourist traps, we’re taking a closer look at an oft-overlooked, yet incredibly influential city in the Northeastern region of the country—the Alsace region, to be exact. Colmar, France is a picturesque commune with one of the best preserved ‘old town’ centers, which dates back countless centuries.
By the way, if you haven’t traveled south to Thiers, be sure to check out our complete article. Thiers is known for its rich knife-making history, which stands in contrast to the visual grandeur and charming architectural allure of Colmar.
So, what is Colmar all about, and what has the town contributed to the greater culinary tradition of France? We’re breaking down all there is to celebrate about this truly beautiful city. Along the way, we’ll sprinkle in our usual bit of awesomeness with some at-home recipes and recommendations for experiencing French lifestyle and Colmar-centric food and drink for yourself. If you’re ready to be transported, grab your Made In gear, and let’s get started!
Colmar: a fairytale classic
When asked about Colmar, most residents and familiar visitors will mention one thing: its gorgeous, colorful architecture. In fact, avid photographers flock to the city each year to capture its many stunning features, which include ornate fountains, Gothic churches, pretty canals, boats, churches, museums, as well as centuries-old buildings blending influences of German, French and Swiss architecture. You’ll usually find pops of yellow, blue and pink—like right out of a Grimm’s fairytale classic.
Sounds so dreamy, right? Well, throughout the generations, the city’s history hasn’t been so quiet. Here’s how Colmar rose from the ashes to become the picturesque vision it is today.
From war to wonderful
Although the city was first referenced in texts as early as the 9th century AD, it didn’t cultivate its cultural charm until the latter part of the Medieval era. It was during this time that the ‘Old City’ developed its distinct architectural flair, including the construction of a variety of religious and secular buildings, monuments and churches in the town center.
Colmar flourished through the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, among other huge historical moments happening across the continent. Then, the town was briefly occupied by Sweden, before being conquered by King Louis XIV and returned to France in the latter part of the 17th century. Colmar was officially made a province of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, but the nearby German Empire swooped in, annexing the area twice throughout the first two World Wars.
If you haven’t gotten the picture yet—Colmar has been through a lot... But despite the constant ‘changing of hands’ over the past couple of centuries, the city has proven incredibly resilient. Its unique cultural personality has survived the storm, resulting in the delightful attractions the world fawns over today.
How about Colmar cuisine?
France has such a colorful history when it comes to food. Like its neighboring cities, Colmar is known for its own unique culinary influences. Thanks to its close proximity to Germany (and history with the border country), you’ll find that in addition to the architecture, Colmar cuisine also integrates hints of Deutschland.
Here’s what Colmar is predominantly known for:
Here’s what Colmar is predominantly known for:
Alsatian Wine – As part of Alsace, Colmar enjoys the distinction of being one of France’s finest wine-making communes. Some of their specialties including pinot gris, Riesling, sparkling wine (Cremant d’Alsace), and other mostly white varieties.
Tarte Flambée – Although sometimes attributed to Germany, this wood-fired delight is an Alsatian dish similar to pizza. Tarte flambée incorporates rich, satisfying cheeses from the region alongside bacon and onions.
Baeckoeffe – Translating to ‘Baker’s Oven,’ baeckoeffe is essentially an Alsatian casserole. Combining hearty ingredients like potatoes, mutton, beef, pork and onions, Colmar chefs use local wines and berries to slow cook the filling into a big old bread bowl. This dish is particularly popular on special occasions like Christmas.
Bretzels – We know—we’re not celebrating Oktoberfest. But since Alsace is so intertwined with German and Bavarian culture, it’s difficult to ignore this one! Unlike harder store-bought ‘pretzels,’ Colmar bretzels have a soft, moist interior and crusty, salty exterior. They’re often described as similar to a brioche in consistency.
Bring Colmar to your kitchen
You’ve learned the culinary specialties of this sensational French town. Now, can you bring a bit of the magic back home? Try out the following recipes inspired by Alsatian cuisine and the quaint, picturesque spirit of Colmar.
Flammekeuche – thekitchn.com
You guessed right. The ‘flame cake,’ more popularly known as tarte flambée, is a wonderful way to transform your kitchen into Colmar. Whip up this savory tart topped with crème fraiche, bacon slices and slivered onions.
Homemade Soft Pretzels – Alton Brown
It takes about two hours, but with just enough patience, you too can brave the Black Forest! Take a stroll across the border from Colmar to Germany with Food Network’s version of the classic bretzel.
Alsatian Wine Pairings – Fiona Beckett
A master at pairing wines with food, Fiona Beckett has a fantastic breakdown of the best kinds of foods (from France and beyond) to pair with Colmar’s most popular wines. Set up a dinner party, pour a few glasses of Alsatian Riesling or pinot, and impress guests with your advanced palate.
Can’t get enough of Colmar? There’s more French food fantasies coming soon!